Chamber presentation focuses on soft skills

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce President Kirk Mancer is sharing his organization’s vision statement to “advocate for continued development of our community and serve as a partner for prosperity” through his work with Pelham High School students.

“We’re committed to interacting with local students every year of their high school experience,” Mancer said. “Based on member feedback, we know that high school juniors need soft skills.”

In the Chamber’s Communication Matters presentation, Mancer led an interactive lesson that solicited feedback from PHS juniors on six questions covering soft skills. The questions touched on topics such as cover letters, the purpose of a resume, qualities that employers desire, interview etiquette and how to keep a job. Amazingly, only one PHS junior, Blake Hester, had 100 percent accuracy.

While such information may be common to adults, most knowledge about the working world is based on experience that high school students lack. In addition, those entering the workforce today face issues their parents did not—such as professionalism with social media.

“What do I do if my manager added me on Snapchat?” asked one perplexed PHS junior. Mancer offered sound advice before using this question to segue into a checklist allowing students to assess how social media could affect their employability.

Important takeaways from the Communication Matters presentation for students included how significant their attitude is to potential employers and how easily that attitude can be misinterpreted.

Students really engaged in the presentation and their reactions were very authentic,” said PHS College and Career Coach Katie Cardwell. “Now that we’ve had this program at PHS, I’m excited to continue this conversation to help our students achieve their college and career goals.”

While the majority of PHS students continue their education after high school, many seek part-time employment as high school juniors. In addition, developing strong resumes and interview skills helps students preparing for college. While our Scholarship Search class is a great option for students who need camaraderie and guidance to find college funding, offering this information to all students clearly reveals the challenges ahead.